To Kao Tsung-min, a 56-year-old Kaohsiung resident, telephone scams are no longer just something in the morning paper. Kao's own experience will probably keep him wary for the rest of his life.
One morning, Kao received a phone call from an anonymous person telling him he had kidnapped Kao's daughter. The person said Kao must immediately transfer ransom money to a designated bank account or never see his daughter again.
Kao called his daughter in Taipei as soon as the line went dead. To her panicked father's relief, she was safely at home, getting ready to go to work.
Other scams similar to the story told to Kao have been reported to police in the past few years.
Not all calls are threatening -- some con artists call with stories of late credit card bills and other financial matters.
`CUTTING THE SOURCE'
A project code-named "Cutting the Source" launched by the Executive Yuan last December, however, turned up some unexpected findings.
Chen Kuo-lung (
Chen said that the pattern came to light when a Korean telecom company reported a large number of suspicious calls coming Taiwanese lines.
The company informed its contracting partner in Taiwan, which contacted the police, he said.
CALLS FROM CHINA
Chen said the commission had traced the calls to China. He said the callers had managed to penetrate Taiwan's phone network through a method known as "dictionary attacks," a technique used to circumvent authentication mechanisms set by network designers.
"Taiwan has become a diving board for phone scams in other countries," he said.
Chen said that only about 1 percent of calls that try to use "dictionary attacks" to exploit Taiwan's lines succeed in getting through.
According to last month's NCC news bulletin, the commission has cut off approximately 1.8 million suspicious calls since April.
The commission said phone scam rings are often highly organized, with a clear division of labor. While some scammers make cold calls, others withdraw money from bank accounts when notified.
Still others in the ring provide the telecommunications know-how needed to carry out the operation.
The publication said that 32 percent of phone scams claim a person's credit card number has been stolen.
Fifteen percent of callers pose as civil servants notifying people that a bill or fee must be paid immediately.